We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, February 10. 2013
Congratulations! You Have Arrived at the Greatest City on Earth.
500,000 rail passengers move daily through that remarkable two-level space. That's a lot, but it will be more when the Long Island Railroad's new underground construction is complete (LIRR now only goes to Penn Station out in the West Side hinterlands). It was brilliant to put those tracks underground up to 96th St., thus creating upper Park Avenue and its now-insanely valuable real estate.
This ol' country boy still loves NYC. In my youth, I greeted so many gals and pals at that station, coming or going, that I feel nostalgia whenever I am there. Adventure. It looks and feels far better now, but that musty old train station smell is the same.
My pic of the Grand Central Market. Good stuff for prosperous commuters
Thursday, February 7. 2013
The Stubborn American Who Brought Ice to the World.
In New England, you can still see some old tumbledown icehouses around. Household refrigerators were not in common use until the late 1920s. It was iceboxes until you could afford an electric refrigerator. A properly-built icehouse could store ice for over a year.
Friday, January 25. 2013
We have posted in the (ancient) past about what Greek temples and sculpture looked like when they were built. Vividly-painted.
Smithsonian used chemistry to recreate Aphrodite removing her nightie.
It's a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture, but "what difference does it make"?
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
Hitler's Germany has conquered all of Europe; all except for one resolute island nation. And, with his eye on Russia, Hitler has no interest in fighting Great Britain, he simply wants to relegate it to the inconsequential. This means stopping the supply convoys from America. A relatively simple task, given the right equipment.
Which he had.
The terrifying armada of U-boats had already caused the American supply ships to huddle in close-knit convoys; perfect targets for the long guns of a battleship. And even if the convoy was accompanied by a cruiser, or even a battleship, that's not much of a challenge when your own battleship is so big and new that you can outgun the enemy by five miles.
It was a fairly simple plan, really, and it should have worked.
And if it had?
Britain would have sat on the edge of starvation for the year or so it would have taken Hitler to conquer Russia, since now he wouldn't have to divide his forces, then would have easily fallen once he turned his eye upon it.
And that means, without a stepping stone or 'bridgehead' to gather our forces on, America never could have effectively invaded Europe.
And that means Hitler's Germany would have developed the atomic bomb long before we did. They were already working on it by the time we invaded, and it was only our intervention (like bombing the 'heavy water' facilities) that curtailed its development. Without that, Germany would have had the atomic bomb within a few years. At the time, they were considered the finest machinists in the world.
And then, after taking out Boston and Detroit, the same way we took out Hiroshima and Nagasaki — as a small warning of what's to come — what would our government have done? The same thing the Japanese government did when faced with certain annihilation.
That's how important this moment in history was.
So, why did this great plan fail? It was, after all, the maiden voyage of the largest battleship ever built, the Bismarck, and with four other battleships in the fold, there was simply no way Germany could have failed to wreak havoc on the convoys, isolating Britain and effectively curtailing any further involvement from America.
How did it fail? By a few great strokes of luck and an incredible number of blunders on Germany's part. And that's despite three major screw-ups by the Brits.
But the one major error on Germany's part, the one that signaled the end, was the one that created a situation that was perhaps the most surreal moment in the history of modern warfare.
When you picture the sinking of Bismarck, you're imagining the pounding of the large British naval guns and the brave aviators in their fast Hellcats launching deadly torpedoes at the massive warship, right?
That's what the Germans were thinking, too.
Little did anyone know.
Continue reading "History's Mysteries: The most magical moment of World War II"
Sunday, January 20. 2013
A hearty Coors Light toast to Assistant Village Idiot in Conventional Wisdom Kicked to the Curb, who found this fine interactive site which explains the new ideas, based on recent mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) evidence, of the world migrations of the human species from East Africa to around the world.
That theoretical eruption of Mount Toba 74,000 years ago almost might have wiped us out. The Ice Ages sure put a damper on things too. Changes in climate determined much of mankind's history.
Barring another Mount Toba, and with the help of some much hoped-for global warming, humans might populate the entire globe with cozy bungalows.
But we'll have another Mount Toba, for certain, sometime.
Sunday, January 13. 2013
A repost -
All humans are thought to be descendants of Mitochondrial Eve, who lived around 140,000 years ago - 4600 generations ago -in West Africa.
In the linked piece, our Berkshire friend also notes, interestingly, in a quote:
Pic is by Masolino, c 1426, in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Friday, January 4. 2013
A resource for those driving around New England this year: Historic Houses of New England -open to the public.
Paul Revere's house below:
Monday, December 31. 2012
Sunday, December 30. 2012
Quite a fine king he was. A true philosopher-king. (1194-1250). From the wiki:
Saturday, December 1. 2012
Pic above is a remnant of Bridgeport's grand experiments in public housing. I-95 in the background.
Bridgeport was the first city in New England to construct municipal housing for the poor. Father Panik Village was built in 1939 under the administration of long-time (1933-1957) Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy. (Go figger that surname.)
"Slums" were bulldozed and replaced with modern buildings. In retrospect, how naive but well-intentioned it was to believe that Bridgeport's poor would be lifted up by government housing?
It's easy for us to understand, now, that orderly, pleasing people and environments are not made from the outside appearances, but from the inside. As Insty frequently points out, orderly and pleasant environments are produced by orderly and pleasant people: good environments are not causes, but results. Signs, not causes. NYC's Hell's Kitchen is now expensive and fashionable Chelsea because the slums were never cleared. One of my in-laws grew up with an urban outhouse and it did him no harm at all - or to any of his many siblings. He remembers helping his baby sister get to it during snowstorms.
At first, many happily settled into this heavily-subsidized housing with the modern luxuries of hot water and indoor toilets. Industrial jobs disappeared, but people stayed. Over time, like so many later government housing projects, Father Panik became a no-go zone for police, dominated by drug gangs - so much so that the project became famously emblematic of Bridgeport's decline.
Vila's poignant sentence "I won't know how to live out there" captures one of the problems: insulation from the realities of the world can create something akin to the crippling effects of "institutionalization." Designed as a park-like area for the working poor - at first, it was highly diverse in population - but the 1935 introduction of AFDC, it is argued, gradually converted the project into a ghetto of the dependency subculture dominated by a new era of single mothers and their ungoverned kids.
The Village has now been demolished (I wonder where the residents went). This YouTube contains some photos and memories of the place:
Monday, October 8. 2012
I have just finished reading 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. I highly recommend it, and may post some paragraphs from it over the next months to entice our readers.
Among many other wonderful details, the book undermines the notions that the Europeans arrived to find a primeval land on which the Indians left hardly a footprint. Quite the opposite is true. For example, the Northeast Indians had 100-acre cornfields, scattered wherever the soil was rich, and did massive burnings of their woodlands every year to rewind forest succession, for game management, and to clear the underbush. They viewed the woods as their gardens and farms, and when they made fields, they cleared them to the point of removing the stumps. No slash-and-burn: permanent farm fields that were hard-won with stone axes and fire. The Pilgrims took advantage of their abandoned fields in Massachusetts.
Similarly, the Amazonian Indians turned the rain forest into their own orchards. At least 20% of the Amazonian forest is believed to be dominated by fruit- and nut-bearing trees planted by Indians for their use. That's not to mention their manioc plantations. And the South American Indians, like the Meso-Americans, developed massive irrigation systems to support their populations.
There was little of the New World that had not been shaped by Indian activities, except for the mountains and deserts - and the Incas populated the Andes quite successfully.
I also liked learning about the Indian prophet Deganawida, the Northeast "Peacemaker" born, it was said, of a virgin birth. Hiawatha, the great Indian orator and politician, was one of his followers. Some of those folks are some of my ancestors.
Finally, the book got me interested in Cahokia, the largest Indian city north of Mexico with a top population of 15-20,000 farmers. The mound-building city in Illinois was abandoned 300 years before Columbus. Image on right is what Cahokia's mounds looked like.
(For a variety of reasons, many mysterious, the New World experienced enormous population declines from their millions before Columbus, making
Here's the Cahokia Website.
The history we learn in school is, understandably, Central Eurocentric, and the contributions from the Northern Europeans, aka 'Scandinavians', has decidedly been given short shrift over the years.
But in the past decade or so, more attention has been paid to the role the Norsemen played, and it's becoming fairly apparent that not only did Eric The Red or his son discover and colonize Greenland, but made it all the way to Newfoundland, a country he dubbed Vinland.
'Vinland' in Norse means Wineland — and how could an ice block like Newfoundland be warm enough to grow grapes?
Of course, you're probably already ahead of me here. When the Vikings made their voyages, the earth was so warm that not only could Greenland be colonized and sustain crops (and be named Greenland in the process), but Newfoundland was warm enough to grow grapes.
And not an SUV in sight. Imagine that.
Okay, so how did they discover Iceland, Greenland, and later Newfoundland, without any instruments aboard?
The same way Noah discovered land after the Great Flood.
Continue reading "History's Mysteries: The Columbus Affair"
Wednesday, September 26. 2012
The great Renaissance theologian, zealot, and political reformer, was tortured, hanged, and burned in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence in 1498. The spot where that happened is well-marked in the Piazza.
Botticelli was just one of his famous followers, and supposedly burned some of his own paintings in the Bonfires of the Vanities.
A new book, reviewed: Savonarola: The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Prophet
Tuesday, July 17. 2012
Edward Alexander’s latest book, The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal, would better have been titled The State of the Anti-Jews. Edward Alexander is a professor emeritus of English as well as one of the better informed writers on matters Jewish, who brings this broad knowledge to a series of “critical appraisals” (using Matthew Arnold’s definition of “criticism”: “to see the object as in itself it really is”) that weave the continuity of anti-Jewish ignorance, indecency, inhumanity, cowardice, and illusion from the paragon of liberty John Stuart Mill to today’s Boycott, Divest, Sanction activists.
Within this fabric, Alexander interweaves the similar traits of some with Jewish blood in their veins but infected with additional self-promotional self-importance to be hostile toward what they declare is the Jewish state as their most important barrier to universalist brotherhood. In liberal-leftist illusions of socialist egalitarianism that miraculously creates wealth for all, a people and state that insists on the right to live and to do so in keeping with its traditions – and that does so successfully, no less -- is an affront that challenges these critics’ core beliefs. Many others in their social or professional circles, and reach, engage in noncritical nods of agreement or indifferent onlooking as the cavalcade of invented accusations and meritless analogies are hurled at Jews and Israel.
Continue reading "The State Of The Anti-Jews"
Wednesday, July 4. 2012
Leftists harp about the corruption in free markets, but rarely about the corruption intrinsic to centrally-controlled or -manipulated systems (see Solyndra, or Fannie Mae, for recent American examples).
Who better to discuss these topics than the great Gertrude Himmelfarb? Adam Smith - Moral Philosopher. One quote:
Thursday, June 21. 2012
The simple truth why there are so many national security leaks is that the prime actors -- government officials, Congress, the media -- want them or are unwilling to stop them.
The current spate of serious leaks is not the first time this has occurred. There were major leaks during the Bush administration damaging to the post-9/11 ramping up of anti-terror activities, with no punishment of the offenders. By comparison, the leak of Valerie Plame’s not-so-secret CIA employment became the subject of a Special Prosecutor, and abuse of that process. These two examples revealed that prosecution and follow-up on leaks depended on whose political position was furthered and whose political ox was gored rather than the actual damage to national security.
There are laws on the books, federal agencies with the responsibility, and contracts signed that can be used to find and bring leakers to justice. Justifiably, national security professionals and front-line Special Operations forces have protested the lack of enforcement. Self-servingly, media has demanded even more impunity via a federal shield law. Partisanly, Congress has abdicated its oversight role. Avoidingly, Presidents have mouthed platitudes or claimed innocence.
The abdication of responsibility by those responsible or who should be deeply concerned about national security during the Bush administration has been taken to blatant new depths by the Obama administration’s re-election campaign.
The obvious truth is that these and other leaks are rarely the result of independent investigative reporting. Rather, someone in power secretly goes to the media with the damaging details, either to obstruct policy or to garner support for their own political ends.
Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey writes...
Continue reading "Why So Many National Security Leaks?"
Saturday, June 16. 2012
Most Americans do not remember the details of the Watergate charges and facts, if they ever knew them. Instead, the word Watergate has been used to villify President Nixon, most of what he stood for, and almost any scandal since is called a -gate. Fred Thompson was the Republican counsel on the Congressional Watergate Committee. In a look back that is important to read, Thompson reflects on the context, the charges, the findings and what the findings ignored. As the subtitle of the piece says, "Caricatures of the evil Nixon don’t help us learn how to counter abuses of power." Today, we still suffer, not just domestic breakins or coverups but the far worse wholesale usurpation of Congressional power by this President, the betrayal of allies, and the gross undermining of our national security. A taste of Thompson:
Oh, and remember, millions of lives were lost to the communist takeover of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, once the Watergate reaction put a large Democrat majority in Congress.
Monday, June 4. 2012
A remarkable, timely essay; a tour de force.
Read it all. There is all sorts of good stuff in it.
Wednesday, May 30. 2012
Our latest title image is a Currier and Ives print of The Great Eastern, the largest ship ever built when launched in England in 1858. Double-hulled, compartmented, and capable of ferrying 4000 passengers from Europe to good old New York City. It was claimed that she could circle the globe without refueling. (The pairing of fossil fuel with wind persists today in many recreational sailboats - and in all tax-subsidized wind turbine
She represented a revolution in global transportation but ended her career as a humble cable-laying ship, thus participating in another tech revolution. Here's another Currier and Ives image of her majestic self:
Monday, May 28. 2012
His books on war are remarkable. I recommend highly.
From the NYT article:
Wednesday, May 16. 2012
June 18th will be the 200th anniversary of the US declaration of war with Britain.
It was an interesting war, including the Star Spangled Banner and the burning of the White House. And, of course, the Battle of New Orleans with Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson - fought after the peace treaty had been signed.
Thursday, May 10. 2012
With the enlargement of federal powers and intrusions into individual’s lives, the 9th Amendment to the US Constitution, part of our Bill Of Rights, may well gain more judicial attention. The 9th Amendment should be elevated to central prominence, as it was intended, in applying judgment of all federal legislation, regulations and actions. Our revolution is based in restriction of central powers and must again be reignited to, no exaggeration, save our liberties. Here's the spare words of the 9th Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The 9th Amendment is the least cited or relied upon in Supreme Court cases. The lack of agreement among constitutional scholars as to the specific meaning of the 9th Amendment is largely the reason. This lack of agreement also exceeds the general lack of agreement – usually along liberal and conservative lines – as to many other sections of the Constitution. Focus on transgressions of the first eight Amendments, more specific as to particular rights, and cases specifically concerned with how broad should be an enumerated (listed) power, was usually enough until now.
But constitutional scholars do agree on a basic point: the 9th Amendment was intended to be a guiding construct to interpretation of the rest of the Constitution, although specifics may be either lacking or in contention. After all, the 9th Amendment was considered necessary to be part of our Bill Of Rights without which the Constitution would not have been ratified.
Today, there are new factors requiring more attention to the 9th Amendment: the cumulative and continuing expansion of federal legislation into territories formerly outside its enumerated reserve, the almost unchecked latitude claimed by federal regulatory rules, and technologies’ facilitation of increased central controls and uniformity. The runaway employment of the federal purse and tax to compel obedience is, simply, out of control at the same time that it is evident that the economic security of the nation is imperiled by it.
Continue reading "The Renewed American Revolution: The 9th Amendment"
Saturday, April 28. 2012
Tuesday, April 24. 2012
Our pal Sipp sent us the following missive, as a corrective to this morning's link on the topic:
The recipe for barn red is right here:
Monday, April 23. 2012
Went to take a look at the Lewis Chessmen this weekend. Made of walrus tusk, found on the Isle of Lewis but most likely carved in Norway in the 1100s.
It is believed that Chess, invented in India, found its way from Moorish Spain to northern Europe where it was indeed a game for the wealthy. In Europe, the Vizier was changed to a Queen, the Warder to a Castle (rook), and an elephant to a Bishop.
History of Chess here.
Took a few pics at The Cloisters, then we took a little drive around Inwood and Washington Heights before driving down Broadway (Manhattan's original highway and first an Indian trail) through Washington Heights (in recent years mostly Central American, now very mixed), past Columbia-Presbyterian Med Center, through Harlem, then back uphill to the Columbia campus, down the Upper West Side, and then cut thru the park at 96th St to get to our lunch date on the East Side.
All I can say is that the City looked great, right through Harlem (which seemed to have plenty of Chinese people now). Not a single boarded-up shop. There are several urban hikes on my agenda, and one is from Inwood to Columbia - the 180s to 114 St. Alexander Hamilton's farmhouse was (is) in Inwood.
The Cloisters this weekend:
A few pics of the pleasant Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan below the fold -
Continue reading "The Lewis Chessmen and uptown Manhattan"